‘Fresh Prince’ Star and First-Time Author Karyn Parsons Is Not Here for Your Labels

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-03-14 18:09Z by Steven

‘Fresh Prince’ Star and First-Time Author Karyn Parsons Is Not Here for Your Labels

Shondaland
2019-03-12

Rebecca Carroll, Editor of Special Projects
WNYC New York Public Radio, New York, New York


Little, Brown, and Company

A conversation about her debut novel, “How High the Moon” dives into issues of identity and her focus on telling little-known stories of African Americans.

There is no shame in having loved Hilary Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Sure, she was vapid and flighty and occasionally obnoxious, but she was also admirably ambitious, charmingly naive, and genuinely loyal to her very black family. So it’s a kind of poetic justice that the actress who played her, Karyn Parsons, has evolved out of that hallmark role into something of a black public intellectual, activist, and author — even if she wouldn’t call herself any of those things. Her first novel, How High the Moon, was published last week, and we sat down to talk about it, her nonprofit organization, Sweet Blackberry, race, and labels, and how she feels about acting today.

Rebecca Carroll: You founded Sweet Blackberry as a way to preserve and lift and amplify the achievements of black Americans throughout history, and now you’ve written a young adult novel about a light-skinned black girl coming of age in the Jim Crow South. How do you feel these two projects speak to each other?

Karyn Parsons: I think what Sweet Blackberry has to offer is knowing about these stories from the past, and how they serve us moving forward, especially young people. It shows children what they’re capable of — it teaches them so much about themselves and who they are and can be…

RC: We’re both the product of one biological black parent and one biological white parent. I black identify, and actually think of it in part as a denouncement of white supremacy. And of whiteness in general. Do you identify as black or biracial?

KP: Biracial. I get what you mean, but I don’t want to feel in any way that I’m denouncing my father, who’s white. If it’s basically ‘What are you?’ I feel like I’m miscommunicating with people and these labels. I don’t do labels.

RC: But whiteness is not a label. It’s an identity.

KP: Well, it depends on who you’re talking to.

RC: Well, I’m talking to you.

KP: I think a lot of people are saying it as literally a physical category, not an experience, not cultural.

RC: You mean a phenotype?

KP: Yes.

RC: I would argue otherwise that only white people categorize blackness that way.

KP: Mmmmm, maybe.

RC: When you talk about not wanting to denounce your father, do you think he would be offended if you called yourself a black woman?

KP: Oh, no. It’s not about him. It’s just about me. What I’m saying when I say I’m mixed — I guess I’m not thinking that heavily into white culture…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Life-Giving Art of Adrian Piper

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-05-25 02:44Z by Steven

The Life-Giving Art of Adrian Piper

Shondaland
2018-04-20

Rebecca Carroll, Editor of Special Projects
WNYC New York Public Radio, New York, New York


GETTY IMAGES/PHOTO BY SUZANNE KREITER/THE BOSTON GLOBE

I went to college at a small, private liberal arts school in rural Massachusetts on a full financial scholarship. There I navigated two sets of friends: my black friends, and my white friends. The school was, of course, predominantly white, but the students of color created a strong and robust community. For the first couple of years, though, still legit messed up by being adopted by a white family and raised in an all-white town, I placed an inordinate amount of value on proximity to white folks. So I went ahead and kept up with them Saab-driving, co-op shift-having, jazz-loving white friends, who largely performed their wokeness and ignored or exotified my blackness. Enter: the conceptual artist Adrian Piper, who pretty much gave me my life…

Read the entire article here.

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Ijeoma Oluo and Rebecca Carroll on Race and Representation in Journalism

Posted in Audio, Communications/Media Studies, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Justice on 2018-05-18 19:26Z by Steven

Ijeoma Oluo and Rebecca Carroll on Race and Representation in Journalism

Midday on WNYC
WNYC
New York, New York
2018-05-03

Duarte Geraldino, Guest Host

Ijeoma Oluo and Rebecca Carroll discuss the ethics of representation in Sally Kohn’s book, The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity. Oluo and Aminatou Sow take issue with how they were quoted in Kohn’s book, which sets up what they say is an inaccurate dichotomy between their positions. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair about the controversy, Oluo said the real focus should be that “we need to talk about the work that people of privilege should be doing, not how many more ways we can harm ourselves so that our humanity will be seen.”


(L to R) Call Your Girlfriend’s Aminatou Sow, WNYC’s Rebecca Carroll, Nancy’s Kathy Tu, and Ear Hustle’s Nigel Poor speaking at the 2017 Werk It Festival.
(Gina Clyne Photography )

Listen to the discussion here.

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The Evolution of Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-07 17:49Z by Steven

The Evolution of Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Shondaland
2018-05-04

Rebecca Carroll


Jurnee Smollett-Bell GETTY/BRIANNA ELLIS-MITCHELL

I’m always in serious awe of really skilled child actors, because contrary to what a lot of folks likely think, it’s not just about playing make-believe. Sure, there is an element of pretending, but even that, I think, is a really courageous thing to do as a kid — to go deeply into your imagination, and stay there for hours upon hours. What if you forget who you really are? And, of course, a lot of child actors, especially those who find success, do end up forgetting who they really are. But one instance of a child actor who legit held it down as a young talent and then grew up to be straight fire: Jurnee Smollett-Bell.

Most striking of Smollett-Bell’s childhood cinematic oeuvre, to my mind, is her star turn in Kasi Lemmon’s gorgeous beyond belief breakout independent film “Eve’s Bayou,” which the late Roger Ebert named the best film of 1997. The story takes place over the course of a thick, blistering summer in rural Louisiana, and Smollett-Bell gives a searingly vivid performance as 10-year-old Eve Baptiste, whose daddy (Samuel Jackson), even though he’s a doctor, is no-count as hell, and the rest of her Creole family is kind of a hot mess, too. There’s a lot that can be said about the film on it’s own according — including Lemmons’ fierce command as a first-time filmmaker, the fine and brittle performance by Lynn Whitfield (Queen) as Eve’s mother, the sinewy depth of the cinematography, and set production, and just all the glistening, damaged, and glorious black skin in every single scene. But it’s Smollett-Bell, in her little denim overalls and mile-high Eve attitude that has stayed with me all these years.

Smollett-Bell, who comes from an entire constellation of stars — her brother Jussie is on a little show called “Empire,” and there’s also brothers Jojo, Jocqui, and Jake, and sister Jazz — grew up in New York City, where she and her siblings all began acting very young. All six siblings starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom “On Our Own.” They’ve remained close and recently published a cookbook together called “The Family Table.” The sitcom led to a handful of film roles for Smollett-Bell, among them “Eve’s Bayou,” also “Beautiful Joe” with Sharon Stone, and later, “The Great Debaters” with Forest Whittaker and Denzel Washington (who also directed). Smollett-Bell went on to work consistently in television, appearing as a series regular on “Friday Night Lights,” “The Defenders,” “True Blood” and the black folk family favorite, “Underground” (hootie hoo!), which earned her two Outstanding Actress nominations from the NAACP Image Awards

Read the entire article here.

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How I Got Over: Soledad O’Brien on Race, Politics and the Media

Posted in Communications/Media Studies, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Videos on 2017-08-04 02:25Z by Steven

How I Got Over: Soledad O’Brien on Race, Politics and the Media

The Greene Space
2017-03-27


Soledad O’Brien

During the 2016 election, award-winning journalist and writer Soledad O’Brien charged cable news and media companies of profiting off hate speech normalized by then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. What made for good TV ratings did not make for good journalism.

WNYC editor Rebecca Carroll hosts an unconventional conversation with O’Brien about her new political magazine show “Matter of Fact” and how black and brown journalists and media makers can deliver balanced coverage with President Trump in the White House for the next four years.

View the entire conversation (01:21:57) here.

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For Some Adopted Kids, There’s a Danger in Erasing Racial Lines

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2017-07-18 20:16Z by Steven

For Some Adopted Kids, There’s a Danger in Erasing Racial Lines

The Takeaway
WNYC Radio
New York, New York
2017-07-10

Todd Zwillich, Host


Rebecca Carroll (upper left) with her siblings, circa 1974. (Courtesy of Guest)

The Takeaway has been presenting conversations about race and identity through our original series, “Uncomfortable Truths: Confronting Racism in America.”

Last week, we featured a conversation with Takeaway listener Rechelle Schimke and her brother, Gerritt. Rechelle is white; Gerritt, who was adopted, is black.

Rebecca Carroll, editor of special projects at WNYC Radio, heard echoes of her own story in that conversation. Rebecca, like Gerritt, is black, and was also adopted by a white family.

But while Gerritt’s experience resulted in a seeming erasure of racial lines, Rebecca insists on the importance of recognizing the different identities that have shaped the history of race in America.

Listen to the interview (00:08:00) here.

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How I Got Over: ‘One Drop of Love’ Performance and Conversation

Posted in Arts, Census/Demographics, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-04-06 02:09Z by Steven

How I Got Over: ‘One Drop of Love’ Performance and Conversation

The Greene Space
44 Charlton Street (corner of Varick Street), New York, New York
Thursday, 2017-04-06, 19:00 EDT (Local Time)


One Drop of Love (Photo by David Scarcliff)

Join us for a special presentation of “One Drop of Love,” a multimedia solo performance that explores the intersections of race, class and gender in search of truth, justice and love.

Written and performed by Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, the interactive show parallels the history of changing demographics in the U.S. with DiGiovanni’s own family history, traveling from the 1700s to the present.

The ultimate goal of the performance is to encourage the discussion of race and racism openly and critically, and to commit to making the world more liberated for all.

WNYC editor Rebecca Carroll hosts a post-performance conversation with DiGiovanni as part of The Greene Space’s ongoing How I Got Over series.

For more information, click here.

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“If my parents had instilled any Italian culture in me, I might want to share that with my son. But if you’re talking about general whiteness, there’s nothing there to pass down.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-04-03 02:48Z by Steven

When my son first started to black identify at about 5 or 6 years old, an acquaintance of ours asked my husband, in my presence, if he felt like we were “depriving” our son of his “white side.” My husband, a sociology professor and the author of two books on the failure of housing and school desegregation in the United States, said: “If my parents had instilled any Italian culture in me, I might want to share that with my son. But if you’re talking about general whiteness, there’s nothing there to pass down.”

Rebecca Carroll, “Black and Proud. Even if Strangers Can’t Tell.The New York Times, April 1, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/black-and-proud-even-if-strangers-cant-tell.html.

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Black and Proud. Even if Strangers Can’t Tell.

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2017-04-02 16:20Z by Steven

Black and Proud. Even if Strangers Can’t Tell.

The New York Times
2017-04-01

Rebecca Carroll, Editor of Special Projects
WNYC, New York, New York


Rachel Levit

My 11-year-old is understated, but not shy. He likes to bake, loves video games, is loyal to his friends and, biased as I may be, is a pretty good-looking kid. He gets mad sometimes, though, that people don’t immediately register him as black. “You’re so lucky,” he said to me a few months ago. “People look at you and know that you are black.”

Being black in America has historically been determined by whether or not you look black to nonblack people. This keeps racism operational. Brown and black skin in this country can invite a broad and freewheeling range of bad behavior — from job discrimination to a child being shot dead in the street. For my son, though, being black in America is about more than his skin color. It’s about power, confidence, culture and belonging.

You inherit race, though. You don’t steal it. We’re reminded of this once again by Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who made national headlines in 2015 for claiming a black identity because she felt like it. She released a memoir last week…

…My son is not the only light-skinned, mixed or biracial person I know who identifies primarily as black. Increasingly, I have observed my adult peers and colleagues who fall into this category not merely identifying as black, but routinely pulling out the receipts to prove their blackness.

Some of this may have to do with what the brilliant Jordan Peele, who is also biracial and black, tapped into for the plot of his genre-redefining box office hit, “Get Out” — that it’s cool to be black right now, that we are trending…

Read the entire article here.

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I thought I was a gorgeous kid until I learned I was just ‘pretty, for a black girl’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2016-02-06 20:41Z by Steven

I thought I was a gorgeous kid until I learned I was just ‘pretty, for a black girl’

The Guardian
2016-02-04

Rebecca Carroll

My white birthmother told me that the idea that I was gorgeous was a fiction inflicted upon me out of a sense of white liberal guilt

When I was a little girl, I thought that I was gorgeous. Maybe I kind of was; maybe all little kids think they are, until they don’t. But growing up black in an all-white town, I was also a generally accepted kind of pretty: white adults saw my blackness as an addition to my cuteness; their white children stared at my brown skin and afro with genuine wonder as opposed to judgement and fear. I wasn’t ugly, so it was OK to stare…

Read the entire article here.

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